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Expecting More Cases With Movement of Returnees, Curfew to Continue Till May 31: HP Govt

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Lockdown-extended-in-india-till-may 31

Shimla-Himachal Pradesh Government on May 17, 2020, officially announced the extension of the lockdown till May 31.

The announcement came after the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India (GoI) issued an order, on May 18, under the Disaster Management (DM) Act, 2005, for extension of the lockdown till May 31, 2020. The State has decided the curfew would remain in effect as it is. 

The Government said as the number of COVID-19 cases has been continuously rising, the circumstances require restrictions through curfew.

The Government also attributed the cause of a surge in COVID-19 positive cases to the return of over 1.5 lakh people who were stranded in other States. Over 60, 000 more are have applied for passes and would be returning to the State in the upcoming days.

The Government has urged the people returning from other States to behave as responsible citizens and follow home-quarantine strictly for the sake of the people of the State.

Currently, the number of active cases in Himachal has risen to 80, out of which half of the cases have appeared within the last two weeks owing to State’s Government’s lackadaisical attitude towards taking sufficient measures and well-thought strategy for management of the mass movement of people into the State.

The tally of active cases is 32 as one of the patients in Kangra’s Jamanabad recovered and tested negative for COVID-19. The tally for COVID-19 deaths has also risen to three as two deaths were reported within the last two weeks. The Health Department statistics say that a total of 17417 persons have been tested in the State till May 17 and 21343 people were under surveillance.

On May 17, the State reported two more positive cases. Both cases were reported from Hamirpur district’s Naduan area.

In the first case, a 59-year-old, who had returned from Mumbai in a taxi with five others, tested positive. He hails from gram panchayat Kardi village.

The second person who tested positive belongs to Tayongli village. He had returned from Mumbai in a taxi as well which he shared with two others.  

Both cases were transferred to Bhota COVID hospital, an official of the Health Department confirmed. The Deputy Commissioner, Hamirpur, Harikesh Meena, has ordered sealing the areas from where the cases were reported.

The salient features of the new guidelines are as follows:

States to decide various Zones

Under the new guidelines, States and Union Territories (UTs) will now delineate Red, Green and Orange zones taking into consideration the parameters shared by the Health Ministry. The zones can be a district, or a municipal corporation/ municipality or even smaller administrative units such as sub-divisions, etc, as decided by States and UTs.

Within the red and orange zones, containment and buffer zones will be demarcated by the local authorities, after taking into consideration the Health Ministry guidelines. 

Within the containment zones, only essential activities shall be allowed. Strict perimeter control would be maintained, and no movement of persons would be allowed, except for medical emergencies and for maintaining the supply of essential goods and services.  Buffer zones are areas adjoining each containment zone, where new cases are more likely to appear.  In the buffer zones, more caution needs to be exercised.

Activities Prohibited throughout the Country

A limited number of activities will continue to remain prohibited throughout the country.  These include:

  • all domestic and international air travel of passengers, except for domestic medical services, domestic air ambulance and for security purposes or purposes as permitted by MHA;
  • metro rail services;
  • running of schools, colleges, educational and training/coaching institutions;
  • hotels, restaurants and other hospitality services, except for the running of canteens in bus depots, railway stations and airports;
  • places of large public gatherings such as cinemas, shopping malls, gymnasiums entertainment parks, etc.;
  • social, political, cultural and similar gatherings and other large congregations; and, access to religious places/places of worship for the public.  

However, online/ distance learning would be permitted and encouraged; and, restaurants will be allowed to operate kitchens for home delivery of food items.

Opening up of Sports Activities

Sports complexes and stadia will be permitted to open only for sports activities.  However, spectators will not be allowed in these complexes.

Activities permitted with restrictions

To facilitate the movement of persons, various modes of transport have already been opened up.  Movement of individuals by trains has been permitted earlier by MHA through an order dated 11.05.2020.   Further, evacuation of foreign nationals from India, the return of stranded Indian nationals from abroad, sign-on and sign-off of Indian seafarers, and intra-State and inter-State movement of stranded persons by bus and train, will continue to be allowed.

Inter-State movement of vehicles and buses has also been allowed with mutual consent of the concerned States/ UTs.  Intra-State movement of vehicles and buses can be decided by the States and UTs. 

National Directives for COVID-19 management

The guidelines specify the National Directives for COVID-19 management, which would apply to public places and workplaces. 

Under these guidelines, wearing of face covers is compulsory; spitting will be punishable with fine as may be prescribed in accordance with its laws, rules or regulations by the State/ UT local authority; and social distancing is to be followed by all persons in public places and during transport.  Marriage-related gathering should not have more than 50 guests.  For funerals/ last rites, the maximum number of persons allowed has been kept at 20.  Consumption of liquor, paan, gutkha and tobacco etc., is not allowed in public places. 

The National Directives also stipulate additional requirements for workplaces.  The practice of work from home (WfH) should be followed to the extent possible, and staggering of work hours should be adopted in respect of all offices and other establishments.  There should be provision for thermal scanning, hand wash and sanitizers at all entry and exit points and common areas; and all workplaces and other sensitive locations are to be sanitized regularly.  In workplaces, social distancing would also need to be ensured through adequate distance between workers, adequate gaps between shifts, staggering the lunch break of staff and so on. 

Stipulations regarding Shops and Markets

Local authorities should ensure that shops and markets open with staggered timings, to ensure social distancing.   All shops should also have to ensure six feet distance (2 gaz ki doori) among customers and also not allow more than 5 persons at one time.

Night Curfew

Night Curfew will continue to remain in force on the movement of individuals, for all non-essential activities, between 7 pm and 7 am.

Protection for Vulnerable Persons

Vulnerable persons, i.e., persons above 65 years of age, persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women, and children below the age of 10 years, should stay at home, except for meeting essential requirements and for health purposes.

All activities to be Permitted other than the limited number of those that are prohibited or restricted

All other activities will be permitted except those which are specifically prohibited under these guidelines. However, in containment zones, only essential activities would be allowed, as mentioned earlier.

States to decide on activities within various Zones

States/ UTs, based on their assessment of the situation, may prohibit certain other activities in the various zones, or impose such restrictions as deemed necessary.

Use of Aarogya Setu

Employers on best effort basis should ensure that Aarogya Setu mobile application is installed by all employees having compatible mobile phones. 

District authorities have been asked to advise individuals to install the Aarogya Setu application on compatible mobile phones and regularly update their health status on the app. State/ UT Governments have been asked continue to strictly enforce the lockdown guidelines and they shall not dilute these guidelines issued under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, in any manner.

 

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Kinnaur Landslide: 14 Bodies Recovered in 30 Hours, Several Still Missing

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Kinnaur landslide rescue operation photos

Kinnaur: Landslide in Kinnaur district is unfolding as one of the biggest catastrophe in Himachal Pradesh as the of fatality count continues to rise. After 30 hours of the rescue operation, which was hampered multiple times due to shooting stones at the site, 14 dead bodies had been recovered till the suspension of the operation on Thursday evening. While 10 bodies were recovered on Wednesday, four more were exhumed from the rubble on Thursday.

As many as 15 persons were rescued and taken to Bhavanagar CHC for treatment.

The wreckage of the HP Road Transport Corporation bus was found scattered about 500 meters below the National Highway-5 in Nigulsari – the site of the massive landslide. The condition of the wreckage suggested there was little hope of survival of any passenger. The distraught relatives of the missing persons remained at the site, grieving with diminishing hope to see their family members alive as the rescue operation for today was suspended.

Kinnaur HRTC Bus wreckage

HRTC Bus Wreckage

The state of exhumed bodies added to the horror of the families, as well as, the rescuers. Some of the bodies were in such a state that their identification was next to impossible. While some bodies had their limbs cut off, one of them was found without the head.

As the rescue operation would be entering its third day on Friday, the death toll is likely to rise as the driver of the bus, who had survived the accident and was seriously injured, had estimated that 25-30 passengers were onboard when the landslide pushed it down the NH.

Further, there is still no sign of one vehicle (Bolero SUV), informed Director, State Disaster Management, Sudesh Kumar Mokhta. The exact number of people feared to be buried under the rubble was yet to be ascertained. According to the district administration, based on calls received from families, the number of missing people could be anywhere between 30-50.

Kinnaur rescue operation resumes

Meanwhile, some family members of the missing persons complained that while the rescue operation was initiated immediately from the Negulsari side, JCB machines took over five hours to reach the spot from the Chauri side. They complained that such a big delay was crucial and could have saved more lives.

It’s pertinent to mention that the HRTC bus had remained untraceable on Wednesday and the wreckage was found on the second day of the rescue operation. However, most passengers were yet to be traced.  

According to the Deputy Commandant, ITBP, Dharmender Thakur, shooting stones and sliding rubble posed a huge challenge for the rescue teams, which comprised of hundreds of personnel of NDRF, ITBP, Home-Guards, local police, and CISF. Undertaking this operation on a steep slope further created difficult circumstances for the teams. The lives of the rescuers were also at risk as the site remained vulnerable to reactivation of landslide.

This landslide in the Kinnaur district has become a matter of debate for geologists, environmentalists, seismologists and climatologists. Unscientific cutting of fragile mountains and blasting for the widening of roads and construction of tunnels for hydropower projects, changing patterns of rains, and seismic activity are being referred to be the reasons behind the increased incidents of landslides, especially in Kinnaur district.

At the same time, the inability of the state government to consider technical suggestions given by geological experts from time to time for mitigation of such hazards is also finding mention in the critical comments given by experts. The lackadaisical attitude of the government in the adoption of technologies, such as the early warning system developed by the IIT Mandi for mountainous regions vulnerable to landslides, is also attracting criticism.

It’s pertinent to mention that after the Kotrupi disaster – a massive landslide that had buried two buses and claimed 48 lives in August 2017-experts from IIT Mandi had carried out surveys and studies and provided several suggestions for minimizing damages, which fell into deaf ears.  

The deceased were identified as:

  1. Rohit Kumar
  2. Vanshuka
  3. Meera Devi
  4. Nitisha
  5. Prem Kumar
  6. Gyan Dassi
  7. Devi Chand
  8. Kumari Radhika
  9. Bhupender
  10. Kamlesh Kumar
  11. Lakshman Thapa
  12. Vijay Kumar

Two others were yet to be identified. The state government has announced ex-gratia of Rs 4 lakh to the kin of the deceased and Rs 5o thousand to the injured. HRTC has also announced Rs. 1 lakh ex-gratia to the passengers of the bus killed in the mishap. 

Further, Chief Minister Jairam Thakur and several other political leader visited the spot and met the relatives of victims on Thursday. 

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Kinnaur Tragedy: HRTC Bus Wreckage Found, Death Toll Rises to 13 and Likely Rise

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Kinnaur HRTC Bus wreckage

Kinnaur-The rescue operation at the site of the landslide in Nigulsari, Nichar Tehsil of the Kinnaur district, was resumed on Thursday morning. The wreckage of the ill-fated bus of the HP Road Transport Corporation was found 500 meters below the road and about 200 meters above the Sutlej River. The pictures showed that the bus was completely crushed and torn to pieces. 

So far, 13 dead bodies had been recovered and 14 injured including the driver and the conductor of the HRTC bus, which was on its way from Reckong Peo to Haridwar, were rescued and taken to hospital. The death toll is likely to rise as the passengers were yet to be traced. According to the driver, there were 25-30 passengers in the bus when it was hit by the landslide. A Bolero SUV alongwith passengers was also missing and was yet to be traced.  

Kinnaur rescue operation resumes

The mishap occurred at about 12:30 pm on Wednesday. The rescue operation was suspended at 9 pm due to dark conditions and shooting stones, which made the rescue operation difficult.

Till the suspension of the operation, the rescue teams comprising of NDRF, ITBP, Home-Guards, Central Industrial Security Force, and local police had traced three cars and a tipper.  

The rescue teams were searching from two directions and were using drones too.   

Kinnaur tragedy drone picture

The landslide had hit about 200 meters patch of the National Highway-5 – about 10 kilometres away from Bhavanagar.

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Kinnaur Tragedy: 10 Bodies Recovered, Still No Trace of HRTC Bus, 50-60 Persons Feared to be Missing

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Kinnaur tragedy drone picture

Kinnaur: The rescue operation at the site of the landslide in Nigulsari, Nichar Tehsil of the Kinnaur district, was suspended at 9 pm on Wednesday due to dark conditions and shooting stones, which made the rescue operation difficult. The rescue operation would be resumed on Thursday morning, according to the information provided by the district administration.

So far, 10 dead bodies, including those of five women and a child, had been recovered and 13 injured were rescued and taken to CHC Bhavnagar. Though the exact number was not known, 50-60 persons were feared to be buried and were yet to be traced.  

Kinnaur rescue operation pictures 7

Source: ITBP

The rescue teams comprising of state NDRF, ITBP, Home-Guards, Central Industrial Security Force, and local police had been carrying out the rescue operation aggressively.

The HRTC bus carrying 25-30 passengers and a Bolero SUV were still untraceable. As earth removers removed the rubble, two cars and a truck were traced, but the bus and the SUV weren’t found beneath the rubble. It’s being suspected that rubble and boulders might have pushed the bus and the SUV down the gorge and into the Sutlej River.

Kinnaur rescue operation pictures 5

Source: ITBP

The HRTC bus and a utility vehicle (a Bolero) and their passengers have not been found under the debris. They are still untraceable. Both vehicles may have rolled down with the debris,” informed Director, State Disaster Management Force, Sudesh Kumar Mokhta.

The rescue teams were searching from two directions and were using drone too, informed Deputy Commissioner, Kinnaur, Abid Hussain Sadiq.    

Kinnaur rescue operation pictures

Source: ITBP

The landslide had hit about 200 meters patch of the National Highway-5 – about 10 kilometers away from Bhavanagar. The ill-fated bus was reportedly on its way from Reckong Peo to Haridwar in Uttarakhand via Shimla.

Kinnaur tragedy drone picture

Source: ITBP

The survivors included the drivers of the bus, Mahender Pal, who had first informed his higher officials about the landslide, and the conductor, Gulab Singh.

Meanwhile, ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh was announced for the kin of the deceased and Rs 50 thousand for the injured.

Kinnaur rescue operation pictures 3

Source: ITBP

The landslide has again stirred a debate over ecological damages to the fragile Himalayan region due to rampant blasting and tunneling for hydropower projects and cutting of hills for the widening of roads in an unscientific manner. As compared to the previous year, landslides and cloudbursts doubled in 2o21.

Earlier, on July 25, a landslide had claimed nine lives after boulders rolling down a hill hit a tourist vehicle on Sangla-Chitkul NH in the Batseri region in Kinnaur district. 

According to the statement given in the Legislative Assembly, the ongoing monsoon session has claimed 212 lives and caused damages worth over Rs. 500 crores. The death tally would rise as the rescue operation would be resumed tomorrow.

Kinnaur rescue operation pictures 2

Source: ITBP

Kinnaur rescue operation pictures 6 Kinnaur rescue operation pictures 4

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